Pros: Off-road capability; passenger capacity and interior space; towing capacity; plentiful standard features

Cons: Poor fuel economy; substandard reliability rating

The LR4 (or the Discovery 4, as it's called in Europe) is the fourth generation of the Discovery, first sold in the U.S. in 1994. The brand first entered the U.S. market in 1987. The LR4 combines unparalleled off-road capability with luxury and utility.

Starting at $49,750, the LR4 is an award-winning luxury SUV that is available in three versions: base, HSE and HSE LUX.

The LR4 might be more expensive than some of its competitors, but with unparalleled off-road capability, seating for seven and a 7,700-pound towing capacity, the LR4 leaves most other luxury SUVs in the dust.

Comfort & Utility

In the LR4, leather seats, dual-zone climate control and a power tilt-and-slide moonroof are standard, setting the tone for the vehicle's architectural theme. With available natural finish wood trim, white LED mood lighting and a premium audio upgrade, the LR4 is both classic and luxurious.

With fold-flat third-row seating creating 90.3 cubic feet of interior cargo space, the LR4 can be quickly transformed from a versatile cargo mover to a people hauler at a moment's notice. Head and leg room abound in the LR4, making excellent use of the vehicle's tall roofline.

Technology

Unlike many other automakers, Land Rover doesn't have huge numbers of options that can be packed on at a significant markup. Instead, Land Rover has made most features standard, among them Bluetooth connectivity, a rear-view camera and Land Rover's award-winning four-wheel-drive and traction control systems, Hill Start Assist and Gradient Release Control.

Land Rover's Terrain Response system optimizes the vehicle for virtually all on- or off-road driving situations, with five driver-selectable settings to suit different conditions: General Driving; Grass/Gravel/Snow, Sand; Mud and Ruts and Rock Crawl.

Land Rover's Hill Start Assist system works by preventing the vehicle from rolling backward when moving from a standstill on an incline. It momentarily holding brake pressure when the driver's foot moves from the brake pedal to the accelerator. Gradient Release Control provides extra safety on severe inclines when the driver does not have Hill Descent Control engaged, essentially acting as a fail-safe hill descent system.

Performance & Fuel Economy

The LR4 has only one engine and transmission pairing available in the U.S. market: a Jaguar-sourced, normally aspirated all-aluminum 5.0-liter V8 producing 375 horsepower and 375 lb-ft of torque. It's mated to a six-speed automatic transmission with normal, sport and manual shift modes.

Although the LR4 weighs a stout 5,833 pounds, it will accelerate from 0 to 60 mph in 7.5 seconds. The LR4 puts out impressive power, but it also insatiably consumes premium fuel, with fuel economy figures of 12 mpg in the city and 17 mpg on the highway. Filling up its 22.8-gallon gas tank is not a task that will appeal to frugal consumers.

Safety

The LR4, in addition to luxury and utility features, is loaded with safety components. There are integral head restraints for all three rows of seats. The LR4's safety equipment is anchored by six standard airbags that work in conjunction with its front passenger's seat occupant detection system. They are driver and dual-threshold front-passenger, side thorax (for front seating positions), and head protection side curtain airbags for the front and second-row outboard seating positions. When ordered with the seven-seat comfort package, the LR4 includes two additional side curtain airbags for a total of eight.

The LR4 also features a collapsible steering column and an inertia switch that unlocks the doors, turns off the fuel pump and turns on interior and hazard lights in case of accident.

Driving Impressions

The LR4 has been called the greatest 4x4 of all time by no less a person than Richard Hammond of U.K. TV program Top Gear. Climb behind the steering wheel, and you will quickly see why. Other SUVs may seem to have compromised something here or there, leaving a lack of congruity. The LR4 very much feels complete, well sorted, and uncompromising.

The LR4 is one of the few U.S.-market SUVs still built with body-on-frame construction. This construction style adds weight but also proves highly capable off-road. Add to that the LR4's electronic controls for differential, braking and air suspension systems, and you'll understand why few vehicles can compete with the LR4 on or off the road.

On pavement, the LR4 is smooth, taut, composed and in control. With all the torque created by the 5.0-liter V8, not much throttle is needed to get the LR4 going. Unlike other SUVs, the LR4 feels very sturdy in sharp corners. It has a high-riding, tall body but carries most of its weight down low. It's this low center of gravity, coupled with its complex suspension system, that allows the LR4 to stay level during cornering.

Other Cars to Consider

Infiniti QX56 AWD - Starting at $62,300 for the all-wheel-drive version, the QX56 is nearly $14,000 more expensive than the base LR4 with about the same amenities. But it's not easy to find a big, seven-seater luxury SUV with a strong all-wheel-drive system for less.

Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland 4x4 - There has been a lot of discussion of Grand Cherokee versus LR4. Yes, you can get a Grand Cherokee for a lot less money than an LR4; the Jeep starts at $42,995. But LR4 buyers get two extra seats, more horsepower, more interior space and 2,200 extra pounds of towing capacity.

Mercedes-Benz GL450 4MATIC - Priced at $62,570 for an all-wheel-drive model, the GL450 is big, fast, and luxurious. It wouldn't dare take on the same rough terrain that the LR4 was born to tackle, but how many soccer moms really need to be able to ford 46 inches of water?

AutoTrader Recommends

The LR4 starts at $49,750 and already has a slew of standard equipment; there is little more to desire. We do recommend customers upgrade to the seven-seat comfort package. Not only does this package add two more seats-and seats that delightfully fold flat when not in use-but it also adds two more airbags to the mix. It's a $1,250 upgrade that is worth every penny.

author photo

Nick Jaynes developed a passion for writing about cars working his way through Journalism School as a Volvo mechanic. When he's not writing, Nick can be seen hosting the popular automotive web-show DownForce Motoring. In his free-time, Nick collects vintage cars, trucks, and motorcycles.

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